Latacunga Stories and Tips

Week 55 & 56 - 'Shooting-Up' (Ecuador)

Laguna Quilotoa Photo, Latacunga, Ecuador

After the escapades of previous weeks, recent shenanigans have been on a much lower scale. The highlight was somehow managing to secure a lecturing job working at Ecuador’s’ Military University, located in the nearby town of Latacunga.

I was going to get paid a tiny little sum of money for this extra work, until they found out I was only on a voluntary visa. Instead, this has actually worked to my benefit, being given free transport and accommodation to more or less any place I want to visit in Ecuador, including the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon. Not bad for only 5 hours work a week! Plus it seems teaching at the University has the added bonus of increasing social interactions, having already had many offers of drinking sessions and even free salsa lessons, although I very much doubted the so called innocent motives behind the girl that offered these!

If the University had seen me in action during my first day of lessons, I think they might have been questioning their own judgment, as it would be fair to say that I didn’t really get off to the best of starts. The first lesson saw the teacher introduce me to the students and then leave the classroom, leaving me in front of 30 students not having a clue what to do. Luckily I had a moment of inspiration and decided to let the students inside the mind of a sometimes drunken English menace, elaborating many of my alcohol induced antics to them as they all sat open mouthed, listening intently. Upon telling them the story about my one experience of drinking alcohol in Ecuador, and the consequences that followed, virtually the whole class nodded approvingly, even the teacher, who up until that point had had a rather concerned look on his face. It seems drunkenness is the best way to bond with people in Ecuador!!

The second lesson faired even worse. Again without any planning I walked in to a classroom of 30 students and was asked by the teacher to describe 25 random words to the students before me. As I scrolled my eyes through the interesting selection of vocabulary, a few caught my eye. Such ones included ‘shoot-up’, ‘pull into’ and ‘smash against’. Not knowing the context of any of these words proved to be a small problem. I explained to the students that ‘shoot-up’ was what you do when snorting cocaine. ‘Pull into’ I described as the thing you do when you’re a little horny and want to kiss the girl sitting besides you. Finally, ‘smash against’ I used the example of football hooligans going on a violent rampage when heads smash against lamp-posts. Although the students seemed thoroughly happy with my definitions of such typical English words, the teacher was less impressed, as he later informed me all of the words were in relation to riding a rollercoaster. If only I had of known!

Luckily the last lesson was my saving grace, and allowed me to see the full promise of being a university teacher. The lesson was again a conversation lesson, but the first four questions saw me asked ‘are you single?’, ‘do you have a girlfriend?’, ‘what is your cell-phone number?’ and ‘you have beautiful eyes’, which theoretically isn’t a question, but it did my morale no-end of good! I can see it being an interesting affair teaching here!

Probably most amusing though is that being a military university, for some reason we are given a military escort to and from our home every day, complete with armed guard dressed in full army attire. I mean, I don’t think it is really that dangerous for us to travel, nor am I really that important to deserve this but I’m still taking it though. Anything for free!

Teaching overall has been a much easier affair recently. This has been thanks to both a virus outbreak that saw the number of children and teachers reduced by 75% and also an erupting volcano. Tungurahua has been letting off more mushroom clouds of smoke and ash on a daily basis, which the children, for some reason have found far more interesting than listening to anything I have to teach about!

Also learnt at school this week were a couple of very disturbing facts about the students. Firstly, some children always refuse to clap during any of my music lessons. Not amused by this I decided to take stern action and order them to do so. It was only after they let out a grimace upon doing so that I knew the reason why. It seems clapping in this part of the world makes children’s hands split open, and by the end of the clapping exercise, a number of children’s hands were covered in blood and bleeding profusely. Not a pretty sight at all!

The other fact that startled me was the shocking revelation of exactly how much the young children know about sex, some as young as 5 and 6 years old. Obviously living in a one room house, the parent’s can’t control their burning desires in front of their children’s eyes. This possibly could explain why during one recreational period a fellow teacher found two students, pants around ankles, riding each other! Opening children’s eyes to the joys of sex at such an early age is certainly a recipe for disaster, although it seems normal here for girls of 14 to give birth. One of the children at school had a grandmother aged only 28 when they were born. Such a story would cause outcry back in England, but here it is just seems part of the daily culture!

Another strange cultural difference is the ideology of stealing. In this culture it’s perfectly acceptable for people to steal from people who are richer than themselves. Luckily people here, seeing the way I’m dressed must realise money is something I’m severely lacking as nothing of mine so far has mysteriously disappeared. Even though they say it’s part of the culture here in the Sierra of Ecuador, I certainly won’t be showing any remorse to would be thieves!

A fellow colleague was also saying this week of their not so legal entry in to England a few years back and also how easy it is to claim asylum and refugee status when coming to England. Although I already knew this from reading the newspapers, it’s always shocking to here such information first hand. Apparently all you have to do when arriving in England is to claim you are a refugee, and then for the two years it takes to find out if you really are a refugee, you get to live in free accommodation, watch free TV, eat free food, and get free English lessons, plus a number of other benefits. Although this colleague has a reputation for telling the odd jackanory from time to time, it wouldn’t surprise me if this was the truth!

Other than that mentioned so far, I also had the pleasure of a day trip high into the Andean Mountains to Laguna Quilotoa, a lake situated inside an extinct volcanic crater, deemed to be one of the most beautiful lakes in the whole of Ecuador. I was certainly convinced! Even elections passed without incident, which was a little disappointing as I was hoping there would be some juicy mass-riots to write about, but sadly not!

Well that’s all for this week! Hopefully next time there will be a few more funny incidences to write about!

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